I went for a walk this evening and it was warmer than its been all month and it almost smelled like spring. And on the way back from marching around I saw the moon and it was almost full. I was thinking — possibilities are every where. I walked with my ipod and ear buds in, which is something I hardly ever do, and I sang along with some of my favorite songs and there was about a block or two where I looked at all the trees and the sky and street lights peeking through the branches, and I felt like “holy fuck,” I’m so lucky to be alive and experiencing this very moment, and I almost cried. I mean my eyes teared up and I couldn’t catch my breath. Later on my walk, I spiraled out into some weird anxiety. But I have been all over the map today, in terms of feelings. MTB said that maybe I was dropping the cage around my heart. I hadn’t thought I’d caged my heart in, but I could see where that could be true, too. Anyway, when I got home, I made a tuna fish sandwich with potato chips on it and looked at cartoons in the New Yorker and then I spent the next 5 hours recording. Oh my god, I had forgot how much I love recording and how fucking insane it is. I recorded my guitar track at least 10 times and there’s still some flubs. At some point I poured a double whiskey, which I couldn’t finish all the way. This is the first time I’ve used this Tascam digital 8 track I bought this fall, meaning there was a new gear learning curve. Process, process, process and practice. Somewhere in the midst of the 8th or 9th guitar take, I became aware of how willing I am to be in the process of practicing when it comes to music and I hoped I’d remember the moment so I could apply to every other part of my life that I want to better at, like writing and running and shooting hoops and being less opinionated and not being sarcastic and being better at holding space for other folks hard times and hard feelings. And now it is 1:30am and I should be asleep.
I really love a good, sad song. Really. Really. Love.
Also, there is nothing quite as sweet as someone like your girlfriend sitting on your lap and singing in your ear a song she liked so much in high school. The way she is smiling and rocking back and forth and swinging her legs — she’s letting you in on a secret. And you’re going to remember that for a long time.
What is it exactly that makes me flash on Indiana? I will be doing something that has nothing obvious to do with home and then, suddenly, in my mind I am walking down Lincoln or 4th street or through the stand of trees behind the law school? I know I’ve posted about this before, but it still gets to me. Is it about my heart? Is about about feeling open or vulnerable or kinda scared because I can’t explain to my mind what’s going on in my heart? And sometimes my mind gives me shit about that. I know this is not a thinking thing. But some moments, it’s so different to FEEL that this is not a thinking thing. Also, is it a good idea to be listening to Antony and Johnsons at work or to a mix I titled “Sad Hole?”
Typically, I don’t like to quote lyrics from songs or extract them from the music their supposed to go with, because a song is the whole thing, but I’m gonna break my own rule and quote a whole song today. I’m giving myself license to do this because you can listen to the song yourself on the Secretly Canadian site. Also, I can’t help myself from pointing out the Secretly Canadian is run out of Bloomington, my heart’s home, and that makes me happy.
I wish that I could float
Float up from the ground
I will never know
What that’s like
You have a way about you
I wish that I had
Thought it was impossible
To live and love like you
Funny how we all can change
If we just try to
Thought it was impossible
To live and love like you
One day you will be taller
Taller than the sky
Until that day you will be
Here with us below
Magic will do what magic does
Living in your eyes
Do you think someday soon
You will have the time?
I could use another hand
To help pull me through
Someday these hospital stays
Get the best of me
Trying to fix my mind
Still trying to fix my mind
Trying to work it out
I’m still trying to fix my mind
Still trying to fix my mind
I’m still trying to fix my mind
I have been listening to this handful of sad songs over and over this week. I have been listening to other stuff too, but these 3 or 4 heart breakers are on repeat. (This new band Rhye and their live version of a song called The Fall is pretty perfect.) MTB asked me if that was because everything is changing and I think that was a good intuitive guess. When she said it, I thought yeah that’s it. I like the places a really good sad song gets to and I think I’m open to having those places be gotten to right now, if that makes sense. Also, I admire immensely the craft of writing a great sad song without lapsing into cheesiness. Although it not the craft that’s getting under my skin.
I keep trying to remember if we had music on all the time growing up. Kath? My sister is the keeper of so many childhood memories. Our parents had a pretty massive classical record collection and Kath and I started amassing our own collection pretty early on – Beatles, Jackson 5, Jesus Christ Superstar, Partridge Family, Up with People, Bobby Sherman, the 5th Dimension and the Monkeys are the ones I remember. And then down at my best friend Tim’s house his older siblings had the Spinners and the OJays and the Ohio Players and Marvin Gaye and Al Green and Chakka Kahn. Plus, everybody played piano at our house, maybe not well, but Kath and I took lessons and our parents met in music school, so they played very complicated stuff, or at least it seemed that way to me when I was little. There is a particular Mozart sonata that immediately evokes very visceral memories for me of my Dad and our house growing up. A friend who teaches piano played the piece for me several months after Dad died. I swear for a second I could smell him and see his fore arms (which are pretty much my fore arms) and . . . well . . . crap, that was not where I planned to go with my thoughts. There is just not a good way for preparing yourself for the unexpectedness of always missing someone. I don’t know why I keep forgetting this.
It seems not right for me to say this, but this long stretch of sunshine is a little strange. And the forecast calls for something like 7 more days of it. I’m not praying for rain or anything like that, I’m just trying to figure out how to experience or conceive or take in all this sunshine. Not that it matters. It will be sunny with or without me. Plus, maybe I am looking a gift horse in the mouth. Where the hell did the phrase come from, anyway?
My yard is out of control. Again. It has been on the verge of being out of control all summer and even after countless hours of weeding in the spring and early summer, I’ve barely kept the overgrowness at bay and now the overgrowness is winning. Not that it’s a contest. It’s a yard and I get a lot of pleasure out of it, which seems remarkable to me, because I did not anticipate that pleasure, and feeling it has been revelation, in that maybe I harbor some secret inner gardner. Anyway, I can easily imagine the weeks ahead will include a new round of countless hours of pruning and clearing out beds, and then after that, moving some stuff around and cutting things back. And just like in spring, I will unintentionally blow off social events because I will get totally absorbed by the task at hand.
My fingers are getting calloused again, which is an exciting and familiar by-product of regularly playing my guitar. I like running my thumb over my callouses, for lots of reasons, and I like that that the creative work and practice have an outside mark. In starting to think about how to go about finding some other people to play with, I’ve realized that I am kinda nervous about it. It can be an intense and vulnerable and insanely cool experience all at the same time. But there’s the whole getting to know each other and deciding if its going to work out and if so, how is it going to work. Gosh, as I write out this stuff I realize that bandmating has so many analogies to dating that it’s strange. I think I had this conversation with someone recently. Hmmm, who? Anyway, I will say it here kinda quietly, I am seriously starting to look for folks to play with, so if you know anyone who’s looking to play some music, let me know.
That just seems too serious a note to end on and its not even that serious sooo . . . is there a problem. I don’t need to get a dead end loop about this with myself right? Ending the dead end loop is a good thing to practice with such low stakes.
Some songs kinda kill me. I’ll be sitting at work with my headphones on and be trying to get shit done and all of the sudden I have to stop because it feels like birds are flying away in my chest or my brain is going melt a little. It’s kind of magical but not always sparkly or fun. Still, music is my secret weapon to opening my heart and I’ve been listening to more and more of it on purpose, ever since I said to myself this summer that I wanted to be more open hearted.
Before this summer I had been in a long phase of not listening much to music, a sure sign that I am closed down. Sometimes, I wish one of my good friends would tap me on the shoulder during these turned off stretches and ask me to make them a music mix; it would shake things up a little for me and crack open whatever I’ve shut away. I need some help like that. Because even though I intellectually know what’s going on when I’m not listening very much to music, I can’t undo it by myself.
Here’s a poem I read today that I thought was pretty brilliant.
Stories Have No Manners
I’m listening to the words, but as usual,
watching something else. I hate myself for this,
but who could not watch as the tip of his cuff
nicks the top of the egg yolks smashed in the grits.
Some day next week he will take out the coat
and see the yellow scab and think how little
keeps us from drooling, even in a tie,
drooling when we should be driving, drooling
when we should be keeping the crazy bastard
at bay. It’s the crazy bastard story again.
He doesn’t want to tell it, but, like listeners,
stories have no manners. They track mud in
no matter how much you scrub, down on your knees,
and remind them, this is my tongue and groove,
my bunched little rug in front of the fire.
Is that running water, a bird up the flue?
You start making noises behind closed doors.
Friends think you probably ought to be watched
or at least let go. Though no one knows where.
There’s no pasture out here for horses who
break down and cry. Horses who say on the sly,
I’m expecting a call tomorrow.
Horses who just want to sit under a tree
and look at a cloud. Horses who think too much.
You’ve decided to eat your grits and not
smash up the eggs and leave them dead on the plate.
And you’re watching your cuff, for the first sign
that the story won’t lie down, won’t stay told.
Goodbye, September! I say that kind of wistfully, because it feels like it’s been a special one this year.
I recently wrote a poem titled, “I’m trying hard to be more open hearted, but its complicated and that’s not my fault.” I read it on Saturday at our Thank You Writers reading. It was meant to be both funny, in an absurd way, and also very real about how everyday, stupid things shut down our hearts. I love reading/performing and making people laugh (if I was actually into astrology, I would say that’s b/c my moon in Leo (also I just quickly read up on the moon in Leo and there was something about being tender hearted that almost made me tear up)), so it was an immense pleasure that I kinda knocked it outta the park with that poem, but I do hope that people also picked up on some of the real part too.
I have been writing more poetry lately, which is kind of unexpected. But unlike essays and stories, I am willing to write a shitty first draft of a poem and then edit it. When I write essays and stories, I write and edit at the same time and then write and edit some more, which I know is like a cardinal sin for prose writers. But fuck it I already know I am sinful and twisted. Oh well, right?! Also, the more I write poems, the more I think about how RU told me I should be a poet and I told her I thought that was just about one of the most masochist things I could do. Because you’re just kind of doomed to toil in obscurity. Sorry, to all the poets out there that I love and that I’ve had the pleasure of hearing read out loud or on the paper or both. You rock and I wish there was a NYT best seller list for poetry, so you all could rule. Anyway, maybe I will keep writing poems. Actually . . . well I’m not gonna say it out loud right now.
Also, I am having one of those unbelievable productive streaks of making music. Re-working melodies for bits and pieces of old lyrics. Last night, right after I ran through something new, I immediately got another idea for a tune for a different song. Luckily, I keep my little hand held digital recorder around all the time, so I can get that shit down before I lose the tune. I almost forgot how much I love writing melodies. That’s what worked soooo good for Matt and me with FIP. Matt gave me a big ass stack of lyrics, every couple months, and my job was to come up with the basic melodies. I loved, loved, loved doing that. I was good at doing that. It was challenging and gratifying and so satisfying and pleasurable. I’m kinda trying to set up a similar situation, except without Matt (if I did emoticons, I’d insert a sad face). I’m also thinking I wanna find someone or some people to play with – maybe a bass and/or violin and/or stripped down drum kit and who can harmonize.
I’m on a good creative streak here, and whatever muse or muses I have are being generous, but also I’m willing to put in the practice time. I’m thankful for the combination. Also, I’ve been opening up and sharing my enthusiasm and heart felt encouragement with anyone else I know who is undertaking similar creative endeavors. Keep at it, keep at it, keep at it and when you hit a good streak, capitalize on that mother fucker. Seriously, capitalize!
Gloves and headband on the ride in this morning, but my ears get cold super easily.
The sunrise from the tram is always amazing. I know I’ve said this before here, but views from the tram never get old. In my heart, its always “oh my god,” that is so “beautiful” or “amazing” or “stunning.” And that fact is amazing too. That every day I come to work, I get the the chance to be a little blown away.
I have been playing music again. Did I already mention that a little while back? If I did I didn’t stick with actually doing it, as in playing. Sticking with it means actually setting aside time to practice, as opposed to practicing on a whim. I think I’ve been partly inspired by my 14 y.o. neighbor, a pretty talented viola player, who, on warmer days when the the windows are open, I often get to hear practicing, sometimes at 6:30 in the morning. It’s kind of lovely to hear him play, and also just the littlest bit sad because it taps into an ancient memory I didn’t even know I had of hearing my dad practice his cello. My friend, Howie, once asked me to write about my first memory and I tried really hard to of think of what it was, without any luck, but if I had to guess, I would imagine that it likely involves hearing one of my parents practicing. I’m grateful to have grown up in a house with music and to also have music in the genes. Even when I go through long stretches of not playing much, there are almost always songs running through my mind: hymns, jingles, pop and rock from all the years of AM and then FM radio I listened to, and stuff I’ve made up. I make up lots of ridiculous songs on the spur of the moment, songs for the cats, songs about doing the dishes, a song about being a cry baby. One of the most gratifying songs I’ve written, is a song for Lowen, RU’s nephew, because I’ve been singing it to him since he was a baby and now at 2 1/2 he can sing back the last line to me.
A week ago I couldn’t stop humming hymns. I don’t know how it started, but it was like someone pushed a button in my brain and out came all these old, wonderful songs that I grew up listening to and singing. I never thought about it at the time, but looking back I’d say that there were some very sweet and catchy tunes in the old hymnal. If any of you have been to an Episcopal church you know what I mean. This week I’m quite taken with a Sharon Van Etten song, One Day. It almost makes me want to cry a little bit.
I just finished watching he HBO mini-series, The Pacific, hoping to understand my dad better. And in some strange way hoping to be closer to him. I’ve cried a lot while watching it and wished desperately that I knew if my dad had kept his dress blues or his Marines dog tags, I would have spent more time in that horror show of his burnt out and trashed house searching for them if I’d known they were there.
Last night RU and I went to the Portland Art Museum to hear Catherine Opie give a lecture about, well, really her whole body of work. It was interesting and we were joined by an interesting mix of queers, museum patrons, folks looking for some intellectual stimulation, and maybe some folks feeling kinda nostalgic for the 90’s. Not that those are mutually exclusive groups.
I hate to admit it but I only heard of Cathy 3 or 4 years ago; for a big chunk of the 1990’s I wasn’t really paying attention to art. But I did see her retrospective at the Guggenheim in 2008. I think Cathy’s early series of portraits, which pretty much made her as an artist, are powerful, and I’m glad i saw them in person. Because the slides don’t convey the power of them. You have to be confronted by them in person. The photos in those series are big and aggressive and put into technicolor something that Mapplethorpe started. Those photos are like “boom, mother fucker. We’re are here and we are fucking queer.”
I don’t think she’s done anything as powerful or as moving since those portraits. For for more intimate portraiture, I’d pick Nan Goldin. For social commentary, I’d pick Robert Frank or Lee Friedlander. Off the top of my head, I can’t say who I really like for landscape, but I don’t find Cathy’s landscapes particularly compelling, except for the ice house series. But I was still fascinated with listening to her talk about her work. In part because she’s funny and she’s smart enough to know how to work the crowd. Also, I have a certain personal affection and admiration for her because she’s unabashedly butch and talks about it like it’s absolutely no big deal.
But the landscapes aren’t really that interesting and overall are pretty forgettable. It’s her narrative about them that gives them meaning – what she was thinking or doing when she took the photos, the camera she used, the stories about her travels and sometimes what she was trying to accomplish by framing them the way she did. There was a lot of cliche in what she said, which I didn’t care so much about except that she tried to present it as a unique perspective, like taking a photo of the back of sunflowers and how that goes against expectation. The other thing that was interesting was just listening to the language of talking about art – pieces in conversation with other artist’s work, and football fields and strip malls as social landscapes, witnessing personal experience through portraiture. it was kind of like the performance of intellectualism.
I’m still an Opie fan though.
What happened to DJs being able to mix? You know the ability to overlay 2 tracks and maintain a constant beat? I’ve been to more than a handful of queer dance nights in the last year where the DJ’s got a super cool name, but can’t mix his or her way out a paper sack. And it sucks. When I go out I want to hear something I can’t play at home with my ipod hooked up to my stereo. So here’s my open plea to all those stylish guys and gals behind the console. Aspire to be something more, man. Practice. Put in the time, sporting some headphones behind a mixer. Seriously, learn mow to match a beat. You might even come up with your own original style of mixing that packs a club and makes all the boys and girls swoon over your flat billed trucker hat or your cool asymmetrical hair cut. You look hot. Now, play hot. C’mon and aspire to be the shit; you’ll drink for free.